Medical Errors: A Matter of Life or Death
I've always avoided writing about the tragic story of Kotana Chidyaonga, because I believe that the dead should be allowed to rest in peace and because the facts surrounding her death keep changing.
Its 2022, and the story has taken yet another unexpected turn. according to Platform for Investigative Journalism(PIJ) the Medical Council of Malawi issued a report establishing that the deceased died as a result of medical negligence after PolyClinic ( a clinic she went to after a snake bite)in Lilongwe administered a lethal dose of vecuronium bromide instead of an anti-venom, not as Dr Dzamalala had stated in his forensic autopsy report.
PIJ also reported that Dr. Ruth Chimutu, who works at Polyclinic and a key figure in the events that led to Kottana's death, has been given a three months suspension. I, for one, am astounded by the punishment that has been given Of course, harsher punishment will not bring her back, but it might help prevent other avoidable deaths in the future which are caused by such kind of negligence.
We have heard about medical errors that resulted in serious injury or death before. Remember how, in 2009, a 5-year-old boy lost his sight after receiving the incorrect medication at Kamuzu Central Hospital? And in 2020, when a 2-year-old boy nearly died after being given the wrong medication at Blantyre Adventist Hospital?
Unfortunately, a number of similar incidents have gone unreported or unpunished. I've heard of people being given incorrect or expired medication by reputable hospitals or clinics. Even after the responsible personnel realized their errors, they only apologized and somehow avoided any consequences. I don't have statistics on the number of deaths and injuries caused by medical errors, but I believe there have been many deaths and injuries that have gone unreported.
I understand that nurses and doctors are human beings who are prone to making mistakes, but they should be aware that if mistakes are made, they will be held accountable. It would also help to educate Malawians about their rights as patients. I believe that that most Malawians are unaware that they can report such incidents when they happen.
To teach and remind medical personnel that our lives are literally in their hands, the punishments must be severe.